Cox Automotive revs up with Oracle Cloud

Adopting Oracle Cloud Infrastructure helps Cox Automotive modernize its Oracle back-office platforms and save over $4.5 million a year.

As a leader in the rapidly changing automotive industry, we are always challenging ourselves to think outside the box. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure creates the agility and scalability we need to be an innovator and to integrate new businesses quickly.

Mitch GerstenChief Information Officer, Cox Automotive

Driving change in the auto industry

Cox Automotive is on a mission to change the way the world buys, sells, owns, and uses vehicles. The Atlanta-based company was formed in 2014 to consolidate more than 25 global automotive businesses it acquired over the years—including Autotrader, vAuto, Kelley Blue Book, and Manheim — under one brand. 

With an unrivaled view across the data-driven automotive industry ecosystem, Cox Automotive leverages its unmatched data sets to provide insights and create services that help clients profitably run their businesses. The company’s transparent data philosophy improves automotive experiences, increases efficiencies, and automates decisions across a wide breadth of the automotive industry, including auto dealers, consumers, lenders, and OEMs.

 All the acquisitions needed to create this automotive information engine had a risk, however, when it came to back-office operations, with disparate applications and on-premises data centers making it difficult to connect businesses or add new capabilities.

“We needed to move into the cloud so we could provide more holistic service to our end users,” says Maria Riley, vice president of corporate systems at Cox Automotive. “To do this, we needed a cohesive back-office infrastructure.”

Cox Automotive uses a multicloud approach with a simple strategy: tap the right cloud for the job. As part of the strategy to rationalize technologies and build an engineering ecosystem, Cox Automotive has extensively leveraged other cloud providers for software product engineering. For its back-office infrastructure, the company more recently implemented Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) to run several high-volume, back-office enterprise applications. One application running on OCI provides a real-time transaction engine that’s essentially the cash register for the wholesale vehicle marketplace at Manheim, a Cox Automotive business, while another provides the consolidated financial platform used across Cox Automotive.

“The capability to run the workloads that we have (on OCI) literally doesn't exist anywhere else,” says Robert Taylor, lead back-office architect at Cox Automotive.

 

Moving auctions to the cloud

Cox Automotive began its digital transformation efforts with the billing and revenue functions of Manheim, which is the world’s largest wholesale auto auction based on trade volume. In recent years, the company used on-premises versions of Oracle E-Business Suite to individually manage the billing and cash functions for more than 100 physical, digital, and mobile auctions.

“We wanted to modernize and centralize all those billing and settlement activities,” says Riley.

As part of Manheim’s digital transformation efforts, the highly customized back-office applications were moved to EBS. “We decided at the time to partner with Oracle to run the billing and revenue systems in their private cloud that had dedicated infrastructure with managed services,” says Riley. “This was the first leg of our modernization journey. Moving to OCI and the public cloud infrastructure was the next step where we fully leveraged the cloud to automate almost all of the activities the managed services were providing us. We also significantly improved the architecture to enable higher availability and the flexibility to scale up and down with our business needs.”

Running several Oracle products such as Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, and Oracle Revenue Management and Billing on OCI using the capabilities of Oracle’s Exadata Cloud Service has already saved the company more than $4.5 million a year, according to Riley. And while it set the stage for modernization, Cox Automotive leaders saw that running enterprise apps on a fast, centralized cloud architecture created many opportunities beyond saving money. The cloud architecture enabled Cox Automotive to be more agile, flexible, and resilient. “We knew we could be more nimble in the cloud than we could ever be in the data center,” says Riley.

 

Cloud skills transfer

As Cox Automotive began moving its applications to OCI, it tapped internal expertise running the customer-facing applications on other cloud providers to join the team. This accelerated the implementation of OCI by leveraging years of experience with cloud infrastructure while embedding governance and security to protect the company. Tight collaboration with Oracle’s cloud specialists also proved essential to success.

“The Oracle team worked closely with us to solve problems,” Taylor says. “The access we had to Oracle executives and product teams at the beginning was huge. We have very strong relationships with Oracle, and that’s been invaluable.”

Using OCI to deploy infrastructure as code, Cox Automotive’s back-office development team has reduced the time it takes to put newly generated code into production, from two-and-a-half weeks to three days. The accelerated timeline includes automation of QA and lower lifecycle management. OCI created the flexibility and scalability that Cox Automotive needed to advance its infrastructure to build new applications faster and more efficiently.

For example, Cox Automotive’s auditor recently asked to install software on its Oracle E-Business Suite so it can pull the data it needs to complete company audits, but that was creating performance issues and security concerns. Using an infrastructure-as-code approach, Cox Automotive quickly built a new piece of code that allows the auditor to tap into the company’s system once a quarter to pull the data needed, instead of maintaining the service year-round.

 

Poised for the future

In addition to the cost savings, agility, and reliability gains, the IT modernization at Cox Automotive also means that IT leadership can focus on business goals rather than making dated and disparate financial systems work together. And that motivates tech teams.

Moving to the cloud and adopting an agile approach have also fundamentally changed the way the back office works. That agility is critical as Cox Automotive drives change in the auto business, including completing additional acquisitions as part of an effort to further expand the business. Because the company now has a common, cloud-based technology “backbone,” new acquisitions can quickly transact and communicate with established areas of the business.

“Those acquisitions are going to come in all shapes and sizes,” says Riley. “The goal is they will all be integrated. Our Oracle platforms are key to that integration path.”

Published:December 1, 2021